A new study by Turnitin, the plagiarism detection service, has found that term paper mills account only for a small minority (15 percent) of the apparent sources of the copying. One-third of such material comes from social networks and another one-fourth from "legitimate" educational sources.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Graduate students at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education are charging -- citing tenure denials -- that the institution has shifted away from an emphasis on social justice and equity issues, The Boston Globe reported. Three faculty members who focus on such issues have been denied tenure in the past three years. Further, other professors who work on equity issues have been recruited to move to other universities. Kathleen McCartney, the dean, told the Globe: "I respectfully disagree with the view, voiced by some students and others, that the school is not committed to equity, diversity, and social justice as objects of inquiry."
Exactly what it will amount to and whether it will prompt the U.S. Education Department to temper its plan to toughen regulation of for-profit colleges is unclear. But as published reports document that critics of the department's approach have ramped up their spending on lobbying against new rules, evidence is emerging that the lobbying appears to be having an impact. Dow Jones Newswire and Bloomberg, among others, cited unnamed sources in reporting Thursday that the department's inspector general was investigating aspects of the relationship between the agency's officials and Wall Street investors who benefit when for-profit colleges' stock falls. Egged on by advocacy groups' assertions that the investors improperly influenced the department's regulatory process, two Republican U.S. senators urged the inspector general to investigate the department's ties to the short sellers, A spokeswoman for the inspector general said Thursday that the office does not confirm the existence or status of investigations. But it is uncommon for federal agencies' inspectors general to ignore requests from members of Congress, so even if an investigation is indeed under way, gauging its seriousness is difficult. Also on Thursday, Sen. Michael B. Enzi, the senior Republican on the Senate's education committee, sent a letter asking Education Secretary Arne Duncan for documents related to the negotiated rule making session that produced the new rules on for-profit colleges.
Leaders of the University of Kentucky faculty are calling on the university to reject a request from its athletic association for a $3.1 million loan to pay for new scoreboards for the football stadium, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Athletics officials say that they need the new video scoreboards, and can find private sources for about half of the $6.25 million cost. Faculty leaders, however, have noted that the university has been making major budget cuts, raising questions about why scoreboards should get limited available funds.
St. Francis Xavier University, a Roman Catholic university in Nova Scotia, is reviewing the automatic designation of the area's bishop as chancellor of the university, The Chronicle Herald reported. The chancellor's position includes both ceremonial duties and membership on the governing board. Such arrangements are common at many Catholic institutions, but students have been calling for an end to the tradition, noting that it excludes women and non-Catholics from consideration for the position of chancellor.
Unlike just about every other media organization, Inside Higher Ed has no live coverage planned for tomorrow's wedding of two loyal alumni of the University of St. Andrews. (Our invitations and press credentials appear to have been lost in the mail.) For those wanting an academic angle to the festivities, a few tidbits:
- The journal Cell has published an article on "cell culture" that explores "the more biological aspects of this historic union, including the neurocircuits that strengthen a marriage, the epigenetic changes that transform a 'commoner' into a queen, and the search process for finding a high-affinity partner in a sea of weak interactions."
- Williams College is gathering scholars tomorrow for a symposium to consider such questions as how the wedding menu "reflects changing notions of food and identity," how the British royal family is viewed in former colonies, and a comparative analysis of last summer's Swedish royal wedding with Britain's big event.
- The anthropology blog Savage Minds has urged readers to enjoy the opportunity to view the event through the discipline. The blog set off discussion (and some disagreement) among social scientists with this statement: "How can anthropologists not be interested in the upcoming royal wedding? Centuries of globalization has wiped elaborate large-scale ritual off the face of the planet everywhere except the toffee-nosed bits of the UK. In my opinion, any one who loves a good public orchestration of symbols ought to be interested in this one."
Threats and charges are flying as faculty members ponder a possible strike at Mt. Hood Community College. The Portland Business Journal reported that the college's board has threatened to hire a permanent new faculty if the professors go on strike. The faculty responded with this statement: "Quality education is not built overnight; it’s not found by hiring scab labor from online job postings such as Craigslist or rushing to fill an empty classroom with an instructor who is ill-prepared for the job. The college’s threat to replace full-time faculty with scab labor is a rejection of a shared commitment to quality public higher education."
The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday announced the creation of a panel to study the future of the work force in biomedical research. The panel, which will be co-chaired by Princeton University's president, Shirley M. Tilghman, and is dominated by academic researchers and administrators, is expected to report to a standing committee that advises the NIH's director, Francis S. Collins. In addition to Tilghman, the panel's members are:
- Salley Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research, co-chair
- Sandra Degen, vice president for research, University of Cincinnati
- Laura Forese, chief operating officer, chief medical officer, and senior vice president, New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
- Freeman Hrabowski, president, University of Maryland-Baltimore County
- James Jackson, professor of psychology and director, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
- Leemor Joshua-Tor, professor and dean, Watson School of Biological Sciences
- Richard Lifton, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Yale School of Medicine
- Garry Neil, corporate vice president, Corporate Office of Science and Technology, Johnson & Johnson
- Naomi Rosenberg, dean, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University School of Medicine
- Bruce A. Weinberg, professor, John Glenn School of Public Affairs, Ohio State University
- Keith Yamamoto, executive vice dean, School of Medicine, University of California at San Francisco
Protesting students have occupied the administration building at Rutgers University, The New York Times reported. The students are demanding a tuition freeze, more student input in decisions and better wages for workers at the university.